'He became an idol' - Man United told how to unleash £36m signing's true colours after transfer

Joshua Zirkzee addresses Bologna's Stadio Renato Dall'Ara
-Credit: (Image: Image Photo Agency/Getty Images)

Manchester United are closing in on the signing of Joshua Zirkzee from Bologna, after the two clubs agreed a deal for the Dutch international forward to move to Old Trafford.

Zirkzee will fly into Manchester on Thursday evening ahead of a medical on Friday. Zirkzee had a €40m (£34m) release clause in his Bologna contract, but United have instead agreed to pay €42.5m, with the payments staggered over a three-year period. Had they opted to trigger the release clause, they would have had to pay it in full.

The 23-year-old will become United's first major signing of the summer and he arrives in England after an excellent season at Bologna. Having struggled to forge a path at Bayern Munich as a youngster, Zirkzee made the move to Italy after loan spells with Parma and Anderlecht.

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The view from Italy is that under Thiago Motta's management at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara, he has blossomed and he scored 12 goals last term to book his place in the Dutch squad for EURO 2024 and alert United to his availability.

"He is a talented player," Manuel Minguzzi, editor at Tuttobologna, told the Manchester Evening News.

"He took advantage of Marko Arnautovic's transfer to Inter Milan to become a starter. In the summer of 2023 he came back with a different mindset, and Thiago Motta's work did the rest."

Zirkzee became an 'idol' in Northern Italy and his performances helped his side qualify for the UEFA Champions League this season for the first time since 1965.

The challenge now for the Dutchman, of course, is to become an important part of Erik Ten Hag's push to re-establish United at the top of the Premier League table.

Ten Hag is well aware of his compatriot's qualities and the trust he shows towards Zirkzee will be vital in helping him to realise his potential at Old Trafford.

"He became an idol," Minguzzi added. "So many T-shirts were sold. Inside the locker room a strong bond had been created among all the players. He was well-liked by everyone.

"He has the talent, he just needs to be more consistent during the game and score more. He has to understand the moments of games, when to make a difficult play or an easier one, but if he feels around the trust of coach and environment he can become an important player for United. He can play as a centre forward or a second forward. He can do everything with the ball."

Zirkzee, 23, will provide healthy competition for Rasmus Hojlund, 21, up front next season and there is an excitement, and a genuine belief, that the pair will head United's forward options for several years to come.